1984 Year in Review: WCCW 18.02.1984

indexWCCW 18.02.1984

With over a year since I last spent time on this project, I’d be hoping to return with a bang. Unfortunately, my video editor decided that it didn’t want to play ball, so there will be no gifs for this first article. However, hopefully this won’t detract from a packed WCCW TV show that would see Chris Adams wrestle Ric Flair in the main event.

On the version of the show that I watched, Michael Hayes would introduce the show, addressing the death of David Von Erich and the nature of tape delays meaning that although it had happened, the show would run without reference to it. As I mentioned before, I do look forward somewhat to seeing how the initial reaction to David’s death in the territory plays out; as much as you can look forward to something that stems from someone’s untimely and tragic passing.

In the first match on the show, The Missing Link would face Mike Reed, a jobber who replaced George Weingroff according to the announcer, or a jobber who replaced Larry Higgins if you believed the commentator. Traffic problems were blamed, though they didn’t seem to affect Weingroff’s Mid-South jobbing around the same time. The Missing Link was a recent addition to Devestation Inc., and a guy that I feel would work in small doses. He was definitely unique, with his headbutt based offense blasting straight through Reed after an attack before the bell. Link would miss a diving headbutt off of the top, but then almost cripple Reed with a piledriver/shoulderbreaker move that I almost felt lucky to miss due to a slight error with my video copy. A jumping headbutt would do for Reed in a pure squash to start us off.

Following the previous week’s events, The Freebirds would be out to brag about defeating the Von Erichs after Kevin would cause a DQ. We’d also get footage of a match between Kevin and Buddy Roberts, which would lead to Hayes attacking Kevin with a boot. Much of this angle seems to be about pushing Mike, as he would get revenge by blasting the members of the Freebirds with a boot of his own. Coupled with the Ric Flair angle from the past week, it is eerily prescient that Mike would be getting pushed around a time where David would unfortunately pass away.

An interesting spectacle would follow the Freebird’s words as Fishman would battle with Perro Aguayo (or Aguallo, as the graphic seemed to suggest). Fishman would take a leaf out of The Missing Link’s book and attack Aguayo before the bell, only to get dropped by two interesting leaping shoulderblocks/headbutts. Fishman would rely on heavy slaps and punches to try and take the fight to Aguayo, though he would end up running into two big boots that just wipe him out. Aguayo would almost lose after missing a top rope senton, a Fishman two count then followed by a top rope splash for a further two count. Aguayo would reel it in for the finish, landing a second rope senton after a Samoan drop for the three count. A fun little match.

The pushing of Mike would continue as he would go one on one against Buddy Roberts. Mike’s fire would be obvious from the get go as we’d have a third match start with someone jumping their opponent before the bell, though this time it would be the face doing the honours. Roberts is such a simple and effective heel, utilising the ropes to keep himself away from Mike and slow the hometown hero down. A Mike headlock and sleeper hold would keep Roberts down, whose first real offense would see him pitch Mike to the outside. However, this would only lead to Roberts missing an awkward looking kneedrop to the concrete floor. This would be followed by a pretty unique flying mare to bring Roberts back into the ring. Just as it seems that Roberts might have the beating of Mike, following a headlock bulldog, a second attempt at the bulldog would be blocked, sending Roberts into the turnbuckle and a Mike roll-up for the three count. A surprisingly clean match between members of the Von Erichs and The Freebirds, which makes a pleasant difference.

The main event would see Chris Adams face off against Ric Flair, following Mike Von Erich’s survival against Flair the week before. Flair has numerous different ‘matches’; this is the one where he focuses on wrestling rather than cheating. Adams would outwrestle the NWA Champion consistently, only to annoy Flair and lead to some pushing and shoving mid-match as Flair began to get visibly frustrated. The crowd were loudly behind Adams, and he would grab a couple of nearfalls off of flash pinfall attempts. The first real offense from Flair would be a back breaker out a sleeper hold, but he would almost instantly get dropped with an enziguiri after catching Adams’ leg. Adams would actually land the superkick, only for Flair to get his foot on the rope to break the count. An attempted crossbody from Adams would get reversed and see Flair sneak the victory against a man who had outwrestled him for the majority of the action. Flair with the toned down heeling is always an interesting watch, and Adams was able to bring the technical chops and fan interaction to make this an enjoyable main event.

All in all, a good show. The next few weeks will be interesting to see with the continued push of Mike and the impending reaction to the death of David. Next show in the series will look at the February 18th edition of NWA World Wide Wrestling. Till then, take care.

Roll the Dice #3

After a very WWE article last week, Rolling the Dice has given a much nicer mix to sink my teeth into. As well as my usual trips into McMahon-land, I’ve got two matches from Japan as well as a match from Mexico to enjoy. Like always, there is a mix of the good, and the not so good, to enjoy. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Steve Austin vs The McMahons (Ladder Match for control of the WWF, King of the Ring 1999)

If anything, this is a perfect match to showcase Vince and Shane’s willingness to do most things to put over their company and to create an interesting product. In some ways, the content of the match is irrelevant due to the nature of the participants, but the crowd red hot for the whole of the contest, which really does sum up the development of all three characters in the ring as people who the fans have some connection to, whether positive or negative.

A lot of the match works because of Vince and Shane’s willingness to ‘show ass’, and look stupid, from Shane’s stupidity in attempting to replace himself with Steve Blackman (GTV and Shawn Michaels as commissioner fixing this before bell time) to the McMahons trying to give each other a leg up to bypass the usage of the ladder completely. Unlike some matches between non-wrestlers and wrestlers, the McMahons are never really made to look like they can be competitive against Austin, and you are left waiting for the moment that will cause things to turn in their favour. This match also made me long for the old PPV sets, as Austin whips each McMahon several times into various ladders, before pulling the ladder structure as a whole down on them in a fairly safe but visually impressive spot.

In reality, for a match I remember being really exciting, there actually doesn’t feel like a lot really happens outside of a few big spots, though it feels like there is a sense of ‘if it works, it works’. Shane gets elbowed through the announce table, Vince gets suplexed off of the ladder, and the Stunner is a ridiculously over move. The moving briefcase stops Austin picking up the victory, and in some ways, kills the tension as it doesn’t seem like there is any way for Austin to win from that point. Luckily, the match finishes shortly afterwards; Vince and Austin are toppled off of the ladder by Shane, allowing him to run up the ladder and grab the briefcase. A solid match made more interesting by the booking around it as much as the action in it.

Triple H vs Jeff Hardy (Number One Contender Match, Armageddon 2008)

Unlike the previous match, this is a match that feels completely stymied by the booking around it, as well as the limitations of the men in the ring. That isn’t a knock on Triple H as much as a knock on Jeff Hardy, as this match and the way it was booked required him to bring passion and fire to the contest at points, something he just never felt capable of. Unless he was flying through the air, it felt that Hardy struggled to tell a story in the ring. Considering that he had never felt on the same level as Triple H, large sections of the match felt anti-climactic, especially with the overarching ‘respect’ storyline neutering a lot of the action.

As would be expected from Triple H, he is the one that begins to bend the rules, and it feels like the question left hanging in the air as the match progresses is the willingness of Jeff Hardy to get down and dirty where needed. Hardy pulls a punch at one point of the match, leading to a Triple H slap. Where’s the fire and emotion? H gets a return slap after Hardy goes back to Hardy 101 with a legdrop and dropkick combo. Not enough, and just as it seems to be heating up, it slips back into being fairly bland.

We do get a couple of bigger spots, but they seem to be in lieu of actual ability to tell an engaging story – Hardy is pushed off of the top rope to the outside and a missed swanton both see Hardy landing bumps that impress, but when it comes to his time on offense, his moves are woefully thin on impact. To top it all, Hardy wins with a jacknife pin out of nowhere. Without the context surrounding it, I can only assume there will be more down the line (and a Triple H turn), but it made a wrestler who has always been positioned as lesser win through a flash pin, rather than in a manner that would at least have felt a little more comprehensive. Just not for me at all.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Great Kabuki vs. Genichiro Tenryu & Ricky Fuyuki (AJPW 22/10/1989)

The dice rolls and sends me to Japan as two big tag teams meet in 1989. I know he was a name, but it does feel odd to have Kabuki teaming with Tsuruta. This match is mostly going to be about the ongoing fued between ex-tag partners, Tsuruta and Tenryu, and even in the early exchanges, the crowd is hot and they know how to tease big spots for maximum effect. It was always likely to be Fuyuki who ate some prolonged offense, and it is his leg that is targeted early on, only for Tsuruta to drop the leg and square off to Tenryu following a teased interference. Their hatred for each other is all over this tag match.

Although his strike offense is a little hokey for my liking, Kabuki brings the fire to the match at several points, including launching himself at Tenryu after repeated intrusions into the ring and getting busted open on a ringpost spot. However, the fans are an octave louder whenever we see Tsuruta and Tenryu in the ring together, and their dynamic bursts of strikes are a joy to watch. In an interesting development, Tsuruta plays face in peril for a sizeable portion of the match, with Tenryu resorting to using a chair to take out his foe. The quick tags between the de facto heel team gets under the crowd’s skin quickly, and annoys Kabuki, who eventually just jumps in to stop the beatdown.

Whilst fun, the finish of the match does feel a bit of a letdown. Following Tsuruta breaking up a pinfall following a powerbomb on Kabuki, Kabuki is able to pick up the pin via roll-up on Fuyuki after a collision caused by a Tenryu whip. I wanted something more definitive, but with the nature of Puro, finishes (and therefore wrestlers) are often protected within the finish, so I can understand why this turned out the way it did. Still, a very enjoyable match that makes me want to see more of Tsuruta vs Tenryu in any format.

Giant Baba vs Harley Race (NWA World Heavyweight Title match, AJPW 09/04/1980)

I hated this match.

I can only apologise to anyone who enjoyed it, but it did absolutely nothing for me, and that is considering the effort that Harley Race put in to make this something at least semi-watchable. I’ve never seen Baba wrestle in a singles match, and this doesn’t exactly inspire me to seek out anymore. The pace is glacial, and it Harley Race channelling Mr Perfect and Shawn Michaels to make Baba’s offense look effective at all. Baba relies on strikes and headlocks all too often, and the excitement (if you can call it that) comes from Race, whether he is hitting the ringpost on a missed charge into the corner, or dropping Baba with a suplex at ringside.

It doesn’t help that the booking of the match and the referee are actively bad. During the middle section of the match, there are several one counts (several one after the other), which when added to the slow referee, just means that no tension is really built on the lead up to the finish. Everything just feels awkward. A Baba piledriver is one moment where Baba offers me something, and it forces Race to put his foot on the rope. A return piledriver follows shortly afterwards, but when he misses a headbutt, it gives Baba the opportunity to hit a weak dropkick and a clothesline to get the victory and win the title. Just awful on every level – I feel sorry for Race more than anything.

Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker (Summerslam 2015)

Sometimes it is a matter of perspective and context as to how you feel about a match. Watching this with some friends and a few beers, I really enjoyed this match. In the cold light of day nearly a year later…eh.

That is not to say that it doesn’t have its moments. The wrestlers both know what they are capable of at this time in their career, and they stick to what they know. Outside of finishers and signature moves, there is very little else on show outside of punches and kicks. This was never going to be a return to the brutality of their Hell in the Cell match, but it became a match that was spot, rest, spot, rest, spot.

What really was the story? The lengths the two men have to go to to beat each other? This story has been told many times better, and without the need to finisher/kickout spam to force drama upon a contest. The Undertaker would get hit with three F5s, including one through a table, whilst Brock Lesnar would be taken down with a tombstone and a Last Ride, yet all these moves would lead to kickouts. It is a false economy, and probably the reason why I’ve heard very little about this match since it was contested, and doubt I’ll hear much about it in years to come. Considering what Lesnar and Reigns were able to do earlier in the year, this just comes across a bit silly.

It isn’t helped by the finish. Though I understand the need to try and keep both men strong, the tap out of Taker and the ref/timekeeper miscommunication just didn’t really work. It would be explained away well by replays, but it was confusing in the moment and took the fans (and myself) out of the contest. The low blow and the subsequent Hell’s Gate/Lesnar middle finger finish was a cool visual, but felt played out to a muted crowd still trying to get their heads around what had just proceeded it.

El Hijo Del Santo vs Espanto Jr (UWA World Lightweight Title Match, 10/04/1988)

A match that is almost the polar opposite of the previous contest is last this time, and it is an excellent match between El Hijo Del Santo and Espanto Jr. in UWA. I know of El Hijo Del Santo, but have never seen any Espanto Jr. This does mean that I’m sure I will miss some of the subtleties of the style, but considering my lack of Lucha knowledge, the work is simple, effective and engaging. Caught on handheld camera, this only helps build a sense of atmosphere as the crowd are hot for the whole half hour this match lasts.

What I like most about the trading of holds in this match is that everything feels simultaneously smooth, yet a struggle. These aren’t just holds for holds’ sake – every move is a counter or a reversal that makes sense. An early example sees a headscissors hold by Santo being turned into a pin by Espanto shifting leverage, forcing Santo to bridge out, twist his hips and dump Espanto down to the mat. Simple, indeed, but a really effective base to build the match around. Espanto does begin to show more heelish tendencies as he uses his foot on the rope to assist with a submission hold, but as soon as the match speeds up, it feels that he just can’t compete with Santo. A flapjack style move followed with a surfboard gives the crowd favourite the primera caida.

Almost as if he realises he can’t match Santo for speed, Espanto uses the segunda caida to land some bombs; two clotheslines that get a warning for hitting around the throat, two snapmares that have Santo bouncing hard off of the mat. He even manages to outwit Santo for the segunda, blocking a charge with a headbutt, landing a picture perfect crossbody, throwing his opponent with an admittedly awful powerbomb, and locking in an arm submission on the arm he has targeted ever since Santo injured it upon colliding with the turnbuckle.

The tercera is great, as it successfully builds on the work of the previous caidas. Espanto continues to target the arm, whilst Santo tries to raise the pace once again and defeat Espanto with cradles and submissions. The sense of panic the crowd feels when Espanto has Santo down is palpable, and we almost have fans in the ring prematurely following a beautiful dive off of the top by Santo. Just as it feels Santo might have the match, Espanto uses a Russian legsweep to return to the arm and (with assistance from the ropes) wins the tercera. A really good match, possibly made even better coming off of the Lesnar vs Undertaker match. Outside of two dives, all of this was simple throws and good submission work.

That’s that for this week. I already have my mates for Episode 4 picked out. Believe me when I say that I go from the sublime to the ridiculous. As always, comment as you see fit and let me know what you think.

Roll the Dice #2

Following my initial Roll the Dice column, I’m back with six more wrestling matches randomly selected by software on my computer – US, Puro and Lucha wrestling could be on my menu for today, the only caveat being that I cannot choose myself. With that said, let us get down to a WWE-centric six which covers some of the biggest matches from the 90s, 00s and 10s.

Mr Perfect vs Bret Hart (King of the Ring 1993)

An event that would really work as Bret Hart’s coming out party, this would be the semi-final sandwiched by impressive efforts against Razor Ramon and Bam Bam Bigelow. With two faces, there needed to be some added animosity from somewhere on top of the general desire to reach the final, and the choice to have a pre-match interview where Mean Gene Okerlund questioned Hart’s belief that he would rather fight Perfect than Mr Hughes, thus angering Perfect. With Perfect not a million miles removed from his heel run, he plays an effective heel foil, almost forcing Hart into the role of underdog just as he would be in the other two matches in the night.

The match sees a lot of short bursts of offense before grappling on the mat, something that isn’t too surprising considering this goes almost twenty minutes. Early on, each men’s offense mirrors the other to highlight how well they know each other, and it takes Perfect breaking the rules by refusing to break clean and pulling the hair to gain control. We also see a pretty big bump for the time, as Hart is knocked off of the apron and into the barricade. The visible frustration of Perfect really helps to sell the guts that Hart is showing, and he uses the ropes to add further leverage to a sleeper hold attempt. After getting crotched on the top rope, Perfect attacks the fingers of Hart (injured in the first match against Ramon) to block the Sharpshooter in yet more ingenious heeling, leading to a reversal of a small package by Hart to win. Hart was often good at not being too reliant on the Sharpshooter as the de facto finish in his matches, an important concept during a three match win streak across the evening. Whilst I have heard it doesn’t match up to the Summerslam 1992 match, this is a very solid outing and worked well to help push Hart to that next level coming out of this PPV.

Batista vs Mr Kennedy (Royal Rumble 2007)

On paper, I’m not sure about this at all. It just doesn’t seem to offer me anything that I want from my wrestling, although I know that Batista can turn it on at times and provide something worthwhile in the ring. Having the commentators mention Kennedy defeating six former world champions the previous year (as well as Batista twice) is funny in hindsight, especially considering how Kennedy would disappear from the WWE only a couple of years later. Considering Kennedy’s victories over Batista, this match lacks the heat you might expect. The majority of the match sees Kennedy work over the leg, using an interesting modified leglock. Kennedy just doesn’t really have much in terms of offense to carry a long heat section, which really doesn’t help this match.

With Kennedy bleeding from the nose, a spinebuster brings Batista back in the match but also seemingly ends the selling of the leg. A rolling samoan is impressive for a man of Batista’s size, but undoes a lot of Kennedy’s work earlier in the contest. A ref bump is followed by a low blow and a Kennedy neckbreaker, leading to a slow two count that a number of fans choose to count along with, suggesting either a growing support for Kennedy or a lack of interest in Batista. Kennedy is hit with a clothesline as he comes off of the top rope, before getting planted with the Batista bomb for the loss. The ref bump didn’t really add anything, outside of the visual pinfall for Kennedy, and the match as a whole was as uninspiring as I expected coming in.

Christian vs Randy Orton (Money in the Bank 2011, World Heavyweight Title can change hands on a DQ)

As a booking technique, the added stipulation almost feels like it could give away the ending, unless the WWE are planning a big double bluff, which is a possibility. Either way, Christian offers Orton a chair right at the start and gives him a chance to lose the belt within the first thirty seconds. Unsurprisingly, Orton doesn’t take it. This is the third match the two had been involved in in short order, and both men create a sense of urgency and frustration at their inability to finally shake off their opponent as the match progresses.  Orton even uses a wider offense to really sell the need to go above and beyond to get Christian out of there; a Thesz press and a Jacknife pinning combination aren’t exactly impressive, but help to develop the story further.

Christian is also willing to raise the bar in terms of his offense, as a diving headbutt gets him a near fall. It is to be expected, but the Killswitch only gets Christian a two count, which could be seen as devaluing the finisher, thought finisher kickouts in World title matches were ten a penny during this time it seemed. Another move that Orton uses which would be nice to see a return to is the gutwrench into a neckbreaker, a move of real beauty and impact. When Orton threatens to use the Punt, even just the move into the corner by Orton gets a huge pop from the crowd, showing the extent to which that move was over due to the instakill booking of it. The finish itself is a bit of a shame, as Orton kicks Christian in the balls to give Christian the title – the likelihood of Christian beating Orton via pinfall was always unlikely, but it made the stipulation feel as if it was tacked on just to give Christian a short title run before losing the belt back to Orton in less than a month. Still, you can see why the WWE ran with this match several times in a row, as it did feel that they brought the best out in each other.

Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (Summerslam 2014)

This is a match that suffers based on two things – comparisons to their match in 2012 at Extreme Rules, and time. The match at Extreme Rules felt crazy and legitimate; a Brock in the ring before the diminishing returns of his comeback begun to sink in. I remember watching the Summerslam match and being amazed at the squash-like nature of the booking. For that alone, this match is worth watching. However, seeing it against a couple of years removed, there are long sections where the match just felt boring.

What is interesting in the opening moments is the F5 for a two count. Though it is unlikely the WWE would choose to run a thirty second main event on their second biggest show of the year, Lesnar’s momentum made this viable enough that the crowd believe it is a potentially legitimate finish. Thankfully, this is before the overuse of the ‘suplex city’ concept, and Cena has to be lauded for the viciousness with which Lesnar dumps him repeatedly. The crowd feel like they want to cheer Lesnar, but are almost too afraid to considering the beating he is giving Cena. What Cena does well in this match is include just enough hope spots to make the match competitive, and to draw the audience back in to the match as a contest. A teased second F5 and a subsequent AA gets huge pops from the crowd.

The rolling Germans in the second half of the match are just an impressive feat of power and athleticism, although we do begin to get some crowd unrest and a few ‘boring’ chants. Out of nowhere, we get another hope spot of an STF, only for Lesnar to power out with relative ease and land an F5 for the victory. A ballsy booking move from the WWE to allow Lesnar to blow straight through their biggest star at the time, and a unique watch, but one that doesn’t always deliver in the ring, and one that would be usurped by the quality of the following match.

Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania 31)

Lesnar vs Cena 2014 felt like it became the prototype performance for the modern Lesnar character and the modern Lesnar match. Reigns even is hit with an F5 right at the opening of the match, though it doesn’t draw a nearfall this time. Unlike Cena, however, the sense of competitiveness is always there, with Reigns offering more than token offense. Still, this is primarily the Brock Lesnar show as he ragdolls Reigns around with ease and keeps control of the majority of the match, including the introduction of the now overused ‘suplex city, bitch’ soundbite.

WWE had booked themselves into a corner with champion that no-one wanted to lose and a face that no-one wanted to win. Yet, as the match progresses, you do feel a shift in the attitude of the crowd. This was how Reigns needed to be booked in this match; a man who was able to gut it out and compete against the most physically impressive specimen a wrestling ring had arguably ever seen. Reigns bumps heavily in several instances, including into the barricade and onto the edge of the apron following a Lesnar clothesline.  Two F5s follow shortly afterwards; both nearfalls. There is a palpable change in atmosphere following these two kickouts and Lesnar getting busted open hitting the ringpost. People began to feel that Reigns not only might win it, but shock of all shocks, deserve it to.

Multiple superman punches topple the giant, before two spears give us another near fall. A fourth F5 is a suitable counter to another attempted Superman punch, leading to the Rollins’s cash in that I loved at the time. In retrospect, I am now firmly in the camp of people who think it ‘ruined’ a really good match. With the work Lesnar and Reigns had done to make Reigns seem viable, it was a shame to have this undermined by Rollins’ title victory. If they wanted to, they could have gone with Reigns at this time – it definitely would have had more success than what occurred the year following. A Rollins’ curb stomp on Reigns would give WWE the booking out to have Lesnar lose the title but Reigns not win; just sad that it came at the expense of a brilliant Wrestlemania main event.

Rusev vs John Cena (I Quit Match, Payback 2015)

My last match of this week’s column sees the finish to the most recent incarnation of the Russia vs USA feud. Many point to this feud as the stalling of Rusev’s character, with the booking that saw him lose his undefeated streak, as well as three matches in a row, to Cena cutting off his character at the kneecaps. Even so, Rusev’s character and in-ring work allowed Cena to do what Cena does best and we ended up with an entertaining series of matches, ending with an intensely heated I Quit match.

A good I Quit match is often about escalating brutality, and spots which, whilst safe, give off the sense of danger and impending injury that is required to make it conceivable for any of these men to chuck in the towel. With this being the case, this match is largely successful, as a solid initial section gives way to work with the stais, including a nice spinout uranage by Rusev and an AA by Cena. A barricade is introduced just to get destroyed, before a table breaks awkwardly to derail the momentum. Not to be put off by this, laptops are used as weapons before an angled table against a wall sees Cena chucked through with an Alabama slam. Neither man was to be beaten by shoddy woodwork, it seemed.

An impressive looking, yet ultimately for show, AA into the pyrotechnics allows for some sense of a ‘big’ spot having occurred, before we then head back to the ring for the finish. Knocking out Cena with a camel clutch, Rusev grabs the metal pole attaching the ropes to the turnbuckle, only to get dropped into an STF with the ropes used for assistance. Though this is a repeated spot from previous Cena matches, it is always visually arresting finish, and whilst a tirade of Russian exits Rusev’s mouth, Lana enters the ring and quits for her man. If anything, Lana’s intervention does make the finish feel a little awkward, yet it does help to build towards the separation of Lana/Rusev that had begun in previous Cena vs Rusev matches. A good match all in all – you couldn’t really go too far wrong with ‘big match’ Cena and Rusev.

That’s it for this week. I already have the matches picked for next time, and you can expect a more cosmopolitan selection for sure. As always, share your thoughts, feelings and ideas and I look forward to hearing from you before the next time I roll the dice.